Last weekend anti capitalist marches took place in 50 Spanish cities under the banner "Democracia Real Ya." Although the turnout was much higher than expected, most people's attitude was, "another day, another bunch of crusties on the street." Now it's Wednesday and there are 4,000 people camped out in the center of Madrid. Some are flying Egyptian flags, #spanishrevolution is a trending topic, and everyone's asking themselves, "Is this an actual fucking revolution, or not?"
DRY's idea is to push for political change by boycotting the polls (local elections are scheduled for Sunday), and demonstrating peacefully. Utopian rhetoric, I know, but the popularity of the demonstrations show that grass roots activism is now a viable option for a wider population who are pissed off with the Spanish government.
Without boring you with too many statistics, Spain is deep in the shit. Mortgage rates are going up as house prices plummet, making home ownership an impossible dream for most. A growing number of lower income families are being caught in a negative equity trap, which effectively means they're losing their houses AND having to pay back hundreds of thousands of Euros to the bank, since simply declaring yourself bankrupt and writing off your debts isn't a legal option in Spain. Add to that the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe, and you can understand why so many people are taking to the streets.
In Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday the protesters were chanting things like, "PP and PSOE [two different political parties] are just the same shit," "Tell them to vote for their fucking mums," and "Hands up, this is a robbery." It was fun. The protests ended on Sunday with your standard spate of garbage can burnings and 19 arrests. Since then there have been complaints from the detainees of maltreatment at the hands of the police. One of the prisoners claimed his arresting officer asked him, "How do you expect to find a job wearing those faggot trousers?"
Mass shows of public disaffection are nothing new here. Since the anti war marches of 2004, which were credited with changing the government, people have marched in support of everything from the rights of embryos to the re-establishment of the republic with tedious regularity. It should also be mentioned that most people in Spain don't really give a shit about anything. The people I spoke to on Facebook this morning were more interested in going to the beach than joining the protests in Plaça Catalunya.
At the time of writing, the protests are scheduled to take place every night this week at 8 PM in Madrid and Barcelona, with camps in both squares to continue through Sunday. We've yet to see whether Spain's infamously apathetic youth will see this thing through. So far it seems the police are playing the waiting game and allowing the protesters to camp as long as they keep the squares clean. For their part, the organizers are urging people not to drink or smoke weed in an effort to keep the police at ease.
We'll keep you posted.
Images from Barcelona.